Fort McCoy News October 10, 2014

WSPA cadets complete vehicle, tactical training

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The current cadet class of 48 students at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy (WSPA) has reached the midpoint of its 23 weeks of training. The cadets recently completed training in the academy's Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC), as well as in tactical operations at Fort McCoy's Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF).

Photo for WSPA article
A cadet completes a driving maneuver during training at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy's Emergency Vehicle Operations Course on Fort McCoy.

As a tenant unit at Fort McCoy, the WSPA complex covers more than 50 acres of the installation. Part of that complex — more than 30 acres — includes the EVOC training area where cadets can practice all the driving skills needed by a state trooper.
Inspector Nic Betts, WSPA EVOC instructor, stressed the importance of EVOC.

"In this training, we're trying to get the cadets as familiar with the vehicle as they can be," Betts said. "We want them to build their confidence to learn the maneuvers they are required to perform."

Cadets used training cruiser vehicles — the Ford Crown Victoria — to complete training that included evasive, controlled-braking, backing, parking and turning maneuvers. EVOC training is 40 hours of both classroom and practical driving skills.

The majority of the first two days of EVOC training is spent in the classroom, Betts said. Law enforcement officers must follow strict laws, so it's important cadets gain a firm understanding of what they can and cannot do as drivers. Betts said cadets have done well learning the driving maneuvers and classroom material.

"We throw a lot of information at them at the start of the course," Betts said.

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Cadets from the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy participate in tactical training at the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) on Fort McCoy's South Post. Cadets regularly train at the CACTF during the 23-week course.

"But, by the third and fourth day of EVOC training, they are progressing as we want them to progress. It's almost a night-and-day difference in how well they take to learning."

Cadet Erica Ballweg-Larsen, a native of Fox Lake, Wis., said the EVOC training has been a confidence booster.

"For me, I feel that I've gained a lot more confidence, especially in the evasive- and controlled-braking maneuvers," Ballweg-Larsen said. "We covered a lot of material early, and then we came out to practice it. Every bit of training time here is valuable. We only had a week to learn it all and then be evaluated on it."

Cadet Bill Lindeman of Chippewa Falls, Wis., has been a police officer in Arizona and Altoona, Wis., in the past. He said the EVOC training is among the best he's experienced.

"In this training, you get really familiar with your vehicle," Lindeman said. "You get to know the limits of your brakes, for example, and the different things your vehicle can do."

While 24 of the cadets were completing the EVOC, the 24 others worked on a 40-hour block of tactical training at the CACTF.

Trooper Sgt. Gary Helgerson, one of several tactical training instructors for WSPA, said cadets learned about shotgun and rifle familiarization as well as tactical response, such as clearing buildings and stairwells, and moving an injured comrade in an "under fire" situation.

Helgerson said the CACTF is the perfect place for their tactical training.

"We've used this facility for the last few years," Helgerson said. "It helps provide a more realistic training environment for our cadets."

The cadets trained in the CACTF's school, gas station and town house buildings. Helgersen described the importance of the cadets gaining skills in tactical response.

"Typically people think of troopers as road officers," Helgerson said. "Now, troopers are increasingly assisting other agencies in situations where there may be an active shooter in a building, or in a situation that does not involve what a road officer normally does."

Training in tactics is nothing new for Cadet Christopher Reyna, but this iteration is different from what he learned as a military policeman (MP). Reyna is a retired Army sergeant first class and one of the oldest cadets.

"I've learned tactics like this before, but these are different as they are set to Department of Justice standards," Reyna said. "What I learned before is a different style than this. This is a more basic style they are teaching, but very effective."

Reyna added the decision-making process in the training is different because as a trooper he could be called to respond to a situation by himself.

"As an MP, you always had a partner when responding to a situation," Reyna said. "The thinking process is totally different here than if you were an MP who would go into a situation with a partner or a squad."

Cadet Erik Egstad, a native of Tomah, Wis., appreciated the thoroughness of the tactical training.

"The (instructors) walk us through every step of the training," Egstad said. "There are people training us with military and law-enforcement backgrounds who know this well, and we're learning it well."

In whatever training he's getting, Egstad said he's basically following a dream.

"From the time I was little, I've always wanted to be a trooper," Egstad said. "This is pretty much the only thing I've ever wanted to do."

Cadets also will train in firearms proficiency, vehicle contacts, emergency vehicle operation police pursuits, communication skills, ethics, crash investigations, criminal and traffic law, as well as emergency lifesaving techniques.

The class is scheduled to graduate Dec. 19, 2014.

For more information about the WSPA, call them at 844-847-1234, option 4, or visit their Web page at http://wspa.mrooms3.net.